Don’t Over Face the Operators

A couple of weeks ago, I paid a site visit to a cosmetics company that’s deploying a Proficy shop floor recipe system for their manual batch production. This company has promoted some of their operators to system “champions" on the shop floor. They act as support for the shift operators, which is a best practice I highly recommend to anyone deploying a system that requires a technology shift for the users.

I asked one of the "champions” how things were going, and how the adoption was moving forward. He was very positive, but commented that his biggest problem was disruptive events for those operators that were less comfortable with using technology. I asked him to explain more and he said they were fine when working on one thing, but when they had to switch between different screens to manage the process it slowed things down. This would typically occur when they had to work on a different screen or legacy system, or when a high priority alarm occurred and took priority on the screen. It's a confidence thing: “Did I do that?,” “What do I do now? ,” and “How do I get back to where I was?”

This made total sense. I have seen this very thing with my father, who is a late-in-life technology adopter. I've seen him draft an email, become interrupted, and stop for several minutes to scratch his chin and think. When I check what has happened, it’s usually that he has been distracted by another application, say an anti-virus update, or a new version of flash update. And, since he is not confident, it takes time for him to get back to where he was.

I thought this was relatable and aligns directly with the Proficy Vision solution we are developing. It allows for multiple applications to be hosted on the user interface in a common framework. From there, it can become the “operator cockpit.” Our integrated Proficy Workflow can sequence screen for the operator. Together they will help address this issue. Proficy Vision should be released in early Q1. I will keep you posted.

Have you had similar experiences with operators? How have you avoided over facing the operators? I'm interested to know!

Barry Lynch

Barry, Global Marketing Director – Automation Hardware at GE's Automation & Controls business, passionately believes that connected machines, mobile data analytics and workforce enablement don’t have to be hurdles in business today. He leads the strategic direction of the company’s automation and information systems programs to help customers apply the power of the Industrial Internet to their businesses. By connecting machines, data, insights and people, our technology solutions deliver critical insight for greater operational efficiency, effectiveness and optimization. Learn more about how Barry works at GE on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter at @BarryLynchGE.

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